Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Fleeting Miniature World

During a slight break in the rain this morning, I ventured outside to do my daily walk-about. Imagine my delight when I came upon this dense tent-village of mushrooms sprouting on a small logpile. This was only one of several concentrations on the pile, all of which carpenter ants were busily examining.

Luckily I braved the gray skies and light rain to take a few photos because when I went back this evening, after the sun had gently come out, almost all of these dainty little umbrellas had melted into a dark charcoal-gray mass of threadlike carcasses.

Note the leaf blades in the bottom of the photo to give you a sense of how small and tightly packed these mushrooms were during their brief heyday.

As I continued around the yard, I noticed a rather interesting anomaly: most of my Salvia guaranitica (anise sage) had several foliage tips hanging down, severed almost completely through the stem. I could see no signs of insects around, but it reminded me of cutworm damage on young seedlings, except that it was a foot or more off the ground. After doing some internet and book research, I've decided that the culprit is climbing cutworms, but I still find it unusual. Salvia is normally a plant used to deter insects from a garden, but these plants - and I have at least 5 of two different cultivars, scattered around the yard - were the only ones showing damage. So they were acting more as a trap crop than as a deterrent.

My last discovery of the day was the realization that my two Chain Ferns or Woodwardias (one of which was totally deciduous this winter, while the other retained a couple anemic fronds) are actually two different species. I'd assumed that they were both Oriental Chain Fern (Woodwardia orientalis), which is what we sell at the Plant Sale. Closer inspection revealed some significant differences in the fronds. When I used my new fern guide, a birthday gift from Jess, I realized that the deciduous one was actually Netted Chain Fern (Woodwardia areolata). Best of all, the Netted Chain Fern is native!

Another daily walk-about and 3 new discoveries, just in my modest yard. It never ceases to amaze me how much changes from day to day.


Anonymous said...

The yard is looking so good! The sanctuary provided for 2 legged, 4 legged and 2 winged is needed daily.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thanks, honey. It sure acts as a sanctuary for this 2 legged one!